Hardiesmill is a family farm in the Scottish Borders, run by Robin and Alison Tuke, along with a small, dedicated , and generally very jolly, team. At our core is
Alison's herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle, "Dog 2.0" (who keeps everything in order), the Fairleys (an awesome family who've been working at Hardiesmill since the 1940s,) and a 482 acre (200 hectare) farm which we've put back into grass with the help Johhny Watson Seeds.
Hardiesmill has been a farm since before 1560 (the oldest record we've found so far). The chances are the field names (Bank, Arable Bog, Waterside, Lurgies etc) are as old. The land rises gently from 450 feet to 620 feet above sea level, whilst the soil comprises of a medium to light loam on a clay base. Approximately 28.6 acres are woodland, buildings and roads, 32 acres are arable and rest is in grass for the cattle. We have been experimenting with different grass varieties in order to extend both the growing season and the resilience to the variations in the weather. All are species rich in order to be sustainable and to contribute to the flavour of the beef. We also retain our grass for longer lays in order to increase its minerality, healthiness and goodness, which is paying dividends. Meanwhile we use the straw from the arable for winter bedding for the cattle when we bring them in. The crop is sold (hopefully) for pearling, malting and/or milling. We don't use pesticides and keep fertilizer to a minimum, preferring instead to use bee-friendly clover amongst the grass.
We try and keep cattle outside on the grass throughout the year, though living in Scotland means this is not always possible! The cattle do not mind the cold, nor the wind, but they hate endless days of rain! So we bring them in if it is very wet, to save the ground, and to let the cattle enjoy a drier lie. They are bedded in straw courts, and they have free access to grass-sileage/hay bales, which are put in daily.
The Calves are weaned when they reach 9-10 months old, however they’re kept in the next door court to their mums for a few weeks in order to keep stress to a minimum. They stay at Hardiesmill for all their lives, enjoying the unique grasses. We finish (grow) the cattle naturally without being force fed. They finish at about 24 months. Heifers are bulled at 18 months if retained for breeding.
Hardiesmill tries to be sustainable. A buzz word at the moment! The muck from the winter quarters is used on the grass to give minerals, potash and potassium back to the soil. The cows are bulled naturally by the four stock bulls we have at Hardiesmill. We try and calve so that the newborn is with its mother outside as soon as possible in the Spring, to enjoy the outdoor life. Cows should calve naturally, without assistance, and we only intervene if required. Likewise anti-biotic & steroid use is restricted to medicinal purposes only - i.e if a calf is sick we'll treat it, to minimise suffering, and, quite possibly, save its life. It sounds all fluffy and cuddly, but we really do believe that if you have relaxed happy cattle then life is so much better.